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The secret life of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

Nikki Barrowclough | June 14, 2010
Julian Assange Julian Assange, the man behind the world's biggest leaks, believes in total openness and transparency - except when it comes to himself. Nikki Barrowclough tracked him down.

Why did he have his passport with him? He had everything he needed for three weeks of survival, he replies. He needed his passport for ID when he flew to Tasmania.

Doesn't he have a driver's licence? ''No comment.''

How true is the image of him as the enigmatic founder of Wikileaks, constantly on the move, with no real place to call home? Is this really how he lives his life?

''Do I live my life as an enigmatic man?''

No - is it true you're constantly on the move?

''Pretty much true.''

Does he have one base he'd call home?

''I have four bases where I would go if I was sick, which is how I think about where home is.''

He has spent the best part of the past six months in Iceland, he says. And the next six months? ''It depends on which area of the world I'm needed most. We're an international organisation. We deal with international problems,'' he replies.

Assange mentions four bases, but names only two. The one in Iceland and another in Kenya, where he has spent a lot of time, on and off, in the past couple of years.

The Kroll report, released on Wikileaks, reportedly swung the Kenyan presidential election in 2007.

When he's in the country, Assange lives in a compound in Nairobi with other foreigners, mainly members of NGOs such as Medecins Sans Frontieres. He originally went to Kenya in 2007 to give a lecture on Wikileaks, when it was up and running. ''And ended up staying there,'' I suggest encouragingly.

''Mmmm.''

As a result of liking the place or ...

''Well, it has got extraordinary opportunities for reforms. It had a revolution in the 1970s. It has only been a democracy since 2004 ... I was introduced to senior people in journalism, in human rights very quickly.''

He has travelled to Siberia. Is there a third base there?

''No comment. I wish. The bear steak is good.''

Why did he go to Georgia?

''How do you know about that?''

I read it somewhere, I reply. It was a rumour. ''Ah, a rumour,'' he says.

But he did go there? ''It's better that I don't comment on that, because Georgia is not such a big place.''

Living permanently in a state of exile, which can become addictive, means that you always have the sharp eye of the outsider, I suggest.

''The sense of perspective that interaction with multiple cultures gives you I find to be extremely valuable, because it allows you to see the structure of a country with greater clarity, and gives you a sense of mental independence,'' Assange replies.

 

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